This post is by, Eric Armusik, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Eric is best known for his classical figurative paintings for private collectors and churches alike. Currently, he is painting 40 large, 4ft x 5ft panels of Dante’s Inferno with the assistance of renowned Dante Scholar, Dr. Christopher Kleinhenz. A museum exhibition and comprehensive book will be available once the collection is completed. Eric teaches painting and drawing and runs intensive workshops in his studio located in Pennsylvania. He has a workshop coming up this August in California. He’s extremely passionate about inspiring and empowering artists through his blog, Underrated Artist as well as his popular YouTube channel, “The Truth About Being An Artist.”
I was extremely touched by the hundreds of comments, emails, and personal stories that many of you shared concerning my last blog, The Beauty of Sacrifice. I remember the trepidation I felt "coming clean" about my darkest times and wondered if the honesty would somehow tarnish, or diminish, all my accomplishments. However, after a lengthy conversation with my wife over coffee, I knew I had to emotionally strip myself of all my pride if I wanted my message to be 100% authentic. As we closed that conversation that morning, she looked at me and said, “Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real.” So, of course, she’d whip out some profound quote and then test me on the author who by the way, is Thomas Merton – I Googled it so you didn’t have to – you’re welcome.
That particular day I had a very packed morning. I had two students back to back and a looming deadline as usual. But I kept putting off hitting the send button to submit my blog. As the day carried on, my pride was eating away at me, and I was growing more and more ashamed, but eventually, that quote gave me the courage to send it off. When I did, a strange relief washed over me, and I felt vindicated and gratified. I no longer clung to something that terrified me and in an unusual way; I felt a great sense of relief. How could I help my fellow artists if I didn’t let them know how close I came to absolute failure? It wasn’t a missed deadline, or being rejected from a prominent show kinda failure but epic failure – the kind they make sad movies out of. Truthfully, I left out a lot of the depressing chaos because it would take a novel to really do the hardship justice. I can tell you this, if you can laugh about the horrible crap raining down on you at times, you’ll survive. This much I know.
The morning after I made the double sale, I still had an empty refrigerator and way too much pride to call my in-laws and ask for money. I chose to wait until the banks opened, and the wire transfers cleared. In the meantime, I was left with the arduous task of trying to figure out what to give the children for breakfast. My wife and I went through the cabinets and found a bag of popcorn, rainbow sprinkles, and some sugar. In the sad ingredients, Rebekah saw three hyper kids, and I saw a great solution. So as my health-conscious wife shook her head and left the kitchen, I made, according to my children, the best breakfast they ever had. Yep, that meal has become a legend in the Armusik house - mostly because it was a surprising break from mommy’s organic, grass-fed eggs but I take a win when I can. Even now, I can still see their shocked, little faces when I handed them each a bowl - I was a hero. My advice, try to find some humor in the mire of suffering, and it somehow becomes less depressing. My wife has a very dark and twisted sense of humor and seems to find hilarity in even the most horrific situations - she claims it’s a well-formed defense mechanism. All I know is that it’s terrific because when things get really bad, we seem to laugh the most.
So after the blog dropped, I went about my day as usual. As I was painting, my phone kept chiming, and I was both nervous and elated that the blog was doing well without any snarky remarks or usual dissenters. Usually, I can care less about the nasty or argumentative comments because I’m trying to help people and if someone is failing to see the sincerity of my intent or insist on honing in on one minor point, I can’t help them. But this blog was different – it revolved around the most horrendous, soul-crushing time of my life, and I was concerned about how it would be received. Would my faith be mocked or ridiculed? Would my honesty make people think less of me? The negative thoughts buzzed in my head all day long, but to my amazement, I received hundreds of beautiful, heartfelt notes of gratitude, and this humbled me further.
Fear keeps us from moving forward, and pride keeps us stagnant – I understand this more than ever. Fear keeps artists from quitting their day jobs and believing in themselves. Pride prevents them from asking for advice or congratulating someone who made a big sale. I’ve been the unfortunate recipient of many vicious comments even though I have never, ever, said a hurtful or cruel word to anyone. I know that behind every smile there is pain and behind every success, there is a massive struggle, and I never want to be the jerk that pushes someone over the edge because I was feeling spiteful or jealous. Humility will allow for a moments pause to employ empathy, and I encourage everyone to spread encouragement and kindness instead of engaging in the newest fad of tearing people down for sport. This day in age, it’s so easy to inflate yourself and lash out because you don’t see the hurt and tears of the person behind the screen.
Unfortunately, pride also keeps us rigid – it can prevent us from seeing the flaws in our belief systems. For example, my pride kept me from asking family for help – it kept me fearful and ashamed. Luckily, I somehow remained grounded enough and never succumbed to taking out my anger and frustration on others to temporarily ease the burn of my humiliation. However, some of us haven’t been so fortunate – the false pride rots and festers until it animates us. After years of observing the experiment called, social media, I’ve learned one horrifically sobering thing; people usually project their guilt and insecurities on those who make them feel uncomfortable with their own decisions.
When you’re going through a storm, you need to bunker down and keep your emotions in check. You need to take a deep breath and refrain from being jealous or vindictive. If the temptation to lash out on those who seem to be succeeding is too intoxicating, stay off of social media and work on grounding yourself. It would be best if you remembered that behind every good thing, there usually is a significant struggle that produced it. Be kind and congratulate the person who seems to finally be getting a win. Also, remember that social media is an illusion. Often times, people only show you the good that’s happening in their life. Most people have a strong sense of dignity, and they would never let you know that behind the pretty, stable facade they're crumbling emotionally to ash.
To this day, my failures made me a better husband, father, and artist. I’ve become fearless, battle-tested and impervious and most of all, grateful. I’m grateful for the love of my wife, her humor, and her willingness to struggle with me. I’m grateful for never giving up, for my faith in God and His mercy and for the opportunity to help others. So once again, thank you for all your kind messages. I hope that whatever hardships you are currently facing will soon pass and that many unexpected blessings will quickly be ushered into your lives. Miracles happen every day – this much I know.
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The Beauty of Sacrifice
Trust Thyself, Artist (& 6 TIPS)
10 Tips For Transitioning From Your Job To Being A Full-time Artist